Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Turning Points

8/24/07 - I've spent a good deal of time debating whether or not to post this particular entry, for reasons that are probably self evident. We're going to go for it & see what happens.
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There come times in everyone’s lives when they step back from what they’ve been doing, or how they have been living, and ponder therein the purpose and merits of it all. I am currently going through just such an experience. To those of you who know me well, this is probably not news as it’s hardly a first for me. However, this does have substance to it.

My life took a 180 degree turn five years ago with the decision to stop focusing only on myself and begin to sacrifice my time and energy for the benefit of other people. Directing a Pathfinder club is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you. But it does afford a huge opportunity for one to learn about oneself, and the potential impact on the lives of countless kids and their families is almost limitless.

We’ve worked with a lot of kids, taught them interesting and unique new skills, and driven them thousands of miles to experience numerous things that some of them had never previously experienced. From spelunking, to bike camping, to the International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, WI., we’ve invested thousands of personal hours and dollars on other peoples’ kids. So engaged were we in the process that we even took seven as our own when the need arose and no one else was able or willing to step up to the plate. (That was two years ago) So… suffice to say that it’s been immersive and all encompassing. I have a deep appreciation for how much these experiences have caused me to grow personally, and my memories are rich and numerous. To write about all of them would easily fill a book.

At the same time, Pathfinders and the resulting family, combined with other factors, have taken a collective toll on me that is difficult to measure. I’m drained, spent. My passion and energy has waned significantly, and the results have been clear in my effectiveness as a leader. Perhaps it was the realization that I’d just cancelled another Pathfinder event for the umpteenth time, but for quite some time, I have known that I’ve been doing everyone (including myself) a disservice by staying on. Blame can be pointed all over the place (an unresponsive/unsupportive church, no really close friendships, challenging/strained home life, not taking proper care of myself), but the responsibility ultimately lies with me and my all-too-human tendency of trying to go it alone instead of relying on God’s power and guidance. … It is what it is.

On Monday, I conducted my last Pathfinder Club meeting… And I didn’t even know it until I looked at the freshly modified Calendar that had been sent with me. No last meeting, no investiture service where I could share some last profound thought that might stay with even one of them; Just this last ‘party’, replete with pizza, ice cream, and a decided lack of structure. Not exactly the setting I would have envisioned or wanted for a farewell if I’d had a choice.

The hardest part, though, was that I was all alone. Even my wife didn’t accompany me. I did my best to mingle with the kids and staff, but except for when I carried little Isaiah around upside down and heard him squealing with excitement, I felt hollow. They laughed, ran around, and carried on as always, but I couldn’t. No one seemed to notice my lack of enthusiasm, or if they did, no one said anything. When the last of them had left and I made sure everything was locked up, I knew I was finished.

So, I went home. On the way, my girl asked a rather perceptive question. “Is there going to be Pathfinders next year?” The only question along those lines all night. I assured her that there would be a program. But I also know that she was asking because she doesn’t want to continue next year, and as such, the question hurt as much as the silence. … I tried to get lost in the regular bedtime routine with the kids, but couldn’t. I wanted to talk to someone, but couldn’t. Even hugging Tom and telling him goodnight didn’t make me feel any warmer.

It was a rather anti-climatic ending to one of the most involving aspects of my life for the past 5 years. There is a campout left to do, and I will try to make the most of it. But right now, it has me wondering. All of the time, energy, resources; the sacrifices, the growth, the caring. Did any of it matter? Are people just limitless sponges who soak up all that you can give them until you run dry, yet never spill a drop of it to others when it’s needed? Has my life been wasted?

Tuesday, I had the occasion to view several hundred pictures of the kids from the past few years. There have been a lot of them, and through the tapestry of the photo folders, I was able to watch them grow up all over again. There have been some very positive changes in some of them that appeared to have been because of their involvement with the club, and I felt glad. Some fell through our fingers because we did not have the individual or collective ability to reach out to them, and I still feel the loss of each and every one of them. Still others, be they involved now or formerly… it’s hard to say what will become of them because the future is still unclear. I have to trust that any seeds that we attempted or helped to plant, God will continue to work on germinating in their lives (That isn’t my job, after all). There have been countless good memories along the way. But in the end, I hope that I will be able to take with me more than just the memories.